The Obesity Paradox
The “Obesity Paradox” is highly controversial and hard to digest as it goes against our ideology around weight.
Research is starting to show that being overweight and fit may be healthier than being normal weight and unfit. Also people aged 65+ who carry a little extra weight may have greater life expectancy than those who do not.
These findings have obviously been met with skepticism by many health experts [source: Craig Freudenrich]. The verdict is still not out on the obesity paradox, and more research is needed. In the meantime, it appears that fat is a piece of a bigger health puzzle. Our focus on weight loss has not helped reduce obesity; we need to find the cause.
For a long time now we have known obesity to be a major risk factor for many diseases such as heart disease, type II diabetes and some cancers. While the health risks around obesity remain, it seems this focus may have been letting a bigger fish -our obesogenic environment and industrialised diet- off the hook.
What we have learnt from past health campaigns is that signalling out a risk factor can have unforeseen effects on population-level health. We saw this when saturated fat was attributed to increasing the incidence of heart disease. This led to a 50-year long global anti-fat campaign, which did reduce the incidence of heart disease, but also led to a global increase in consumption of sugars and trans-fats, which replaced saturated fat in ‘low-fat alternatives’.
The epidemiologist and population health expert Paul Marantz suggests ironically the legacy of the anti-fat campaign is partly associated with the obesity and type II diabetes epidemic that we see today. This is because low-fat products came with a perception of being ‘healthy’, so people consumed more and this meant their sugar and trans-fat intake skyrocketed.
Vilifying nutrients like refined sugars and trans-fat probably won’t fix the problem. Food manufacturers just find a replacement, which can cost our health more in the long run, as we saw when sugar replaced fat. To make matters worse, chemical-nutrient profiles aren’t that helpful when discerning healthy food choices. Clever marketing by food corporations make products appear nutritious without having any REAL nutrient benefits and clearly seen in products like vitamin-water [source: Gyorgy Scrinis].
How should consumers navigate this treacherous obesogenic landscape?
Until the links between nutrition, health and lifestyle diseases are fully understood, the nutrition message is: stick to eating REAL food. But around 95% of food products in supermarkets are in boxes, so how do you see REAL food?
Food science writer Michael Pollan provides us with a simple pointer “don’t eat anything your great grandmother wouldn’t recognise as food!”
Alas, my mid-morning two-minute noodle snack probably does not fit the food bill…Sorry GG.
The great fat debate: http://blog.fooducate.com/2010/11/22/the-great-fat-debate/
Gyorgy Scrinis Weight-loss shocker: Diet books are lying to you, October 24th, 2013, SALON.
http://www.abc.net.au/radionational/programs/bodysphere/the-obesity-paradox/5727808#transcript)The Men you made us fat documentary: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iE-H__aIEFE&list=PLA0E2B2461B536A26